Looking back now, friends Grace Maline and Kaitlyn Baysa were moving through their junior year with a sense of under-appreciated normalcy.
The two are involved in the same sorority, are Scott Scholars, roommates, and Spring semester was starting out as expected. Maline, a Bioinformatics major, was looking forward to the UNO Dance Marathon she helps plan and already lined up two internships for the summer. Baysa, an IT Innovation major, was keeping busy with the IT Innovation student organization she helped re-establish and was excited about her own summer internship.
But, the COVID-19 pandemic changed everything. The University of Nebraska at Omaha made the decision to transition to remote learning, and most of the United States enlisted similar social distancing guidelines. Within a few days, they were back in their hometowns, in their childhood rooms, and trying to navigate siblings and parents again.
I’m trying to keep myself on the same schedule I had when classes were in-person. I create little to-do lists. I make my bed every day so I’m not tempted to get back in it.
- Grace Maline
“It’s hard, we Facetime multiple times throughout the day,” Maline says. “My roommates are my people...you just don’t realize all the interactions you had until you miss them.”
In the background of the video call, both have remnants of their past lives: awards hanging on the wall, old posters, siblings walk down the hallway, distracting them.
“I miss when Grace would come home and tap on my door,” Baysa says. “I just think about how ten years ago when there wasn’t Facetime...There’s a lot of ways to keep us connected [but] it’s really strange.”
A week into UNO’s remote learning transition, the friends are trying to find a new routine to keep themselves moving towards the end of their junior year. It’s full-speed ahead now - there’s less than a month left of classes.
“For me, I really enjoy the first 10 minutes before class when we all just come in and hang out...the human interaction part got stripped away really fast,” Baysa says. Missing the classroom discussions that happened before everyone could just turn their videos off, Baysa and Maline admit it’s a bit of a learning curve as everyone settles in to the new virtual experience.
“It’s not quite the same type of experience. It’s hard to find a new routine and keep myself accountable,” Maline said. “I’m still trying to hold myself to the same standards [while learning remotely].” Hunkered down on a small desk in her childhood room, Maline says that she was expecting some kind of change to happen because of the COVID-19 pandemic but wasn’t expecting the complete transition to remote learning. While she says she felt prepared for remote classes, she’s finding it’s mostly the other life “stuff” she’s had to adjust to: when to study, trying to relax, and interacting with family and friends.
“You get into your own little habits in college, but now I have to strategically make myself free when [my parents] want to have dinner,” Maline says. “Home has always been the place where I relax. The dorms were my environment where I really work hard.”
Baysa gestures to a desk she says was crowded with her parents’ belongings when she moved back home.“When I moved out, my parents took over my room,” she says, and points out that her bed is directly behind her study space, drawing constant comments during video calls about her bunk bed.
Despite the adjustment, the friends say they’re making the most of this change and learning how to keep themselves accountable.
Because of technology, they are able to keep in touch and do some of the fun things they used to enjoy – like watching Love is Blind through Netflix Party and find little ways to keep connected.
They also offer a little advice for other students, trying to juggle returning home and keep on top of their classes.
“I’m trying to keep myself on the same schedule I had when classes were in-person. I create little to-do lists,” Grace. “I make my bed every day so I’m not tempted to get back in it.”
“I get ready for my day as much as possible. It’s super easy to roll out of bed and turn the camera off, and just listen to your lectures. But my siblings and I are going through our morning routine to make sure your mindset is there,” Baysa says. “I’ve been making sure to keep my phone away and take notes. Act like you’re in class.”